Getting Real

Howdy folks.  I thought it was time for another blog post and also a lot of crap has been going through my brain and this is one great way to sort through it.

Let’s start with the dancing, that’s probably the cheeriest part.  The big news is that I’m doing a showcase next Friday.  The routine is still incomplete and I haven’t danced a full routine, much less in public, in many many months.  Also, I only have one wardrobe option because I ended up giving my other two dresses away.  Why?  I vowed I am changing and I refuse to be seen in those old dresses again.  I wanted to get rid of them because I wanted to send a message to my subconscious that I was serious about this vow, that there was no back door, no way out, that I have excised the choice to even step backwards and present myself as I was before.   Anyways, I’m doing a cha-cha to “Boogie Shoes” because I wanted to do something fun, light, and energetic.  I don’t feel too much pressure about this since it’s not a competitive setting and pretty much I just wanted to have some fun dancing.  I’ve been focusing so much on the technique lately, and all my lessons are so early in the morning, that it hasn’t been as much fun, even though I do enjoy my lessons for the most part.  So anyways, I’m looking forward to it and it’s also a plus because now I’ll have an open routine for if/when I dance next.  Happily, my husband and parents will be in attendance and there will be a DVD.

Also in dance news, I posted it on my Facebook page, that I was a super-lucky-ducky and because Damir is friends with Andrej Skufca and Melinda Torokgyorgy, he occasionally has them coach at the studio and I got one lesson with each.  Damir ended up being really sick so I was alone with them but it was absolutely wonderful.  It was so helpful to see the way Melinda moved and she was able to work with me on Rumba on basic steps.  We talked a lot about incorporating the upper body and arms, which basically stems from using the core, squeezing and compressing between the hips and ribs, which made it easier to coordinate the lats.  It definitely elucidated some muscle memory habits I have, and it also gave me the opportunity to feel the correct postures in my body.  On my lesson with Andrej, we worked on samba and it was also excellent.  He helped me, again with principles of dancing on basic steps and it again elucidated how much more movement I can be generating with the body of mine, which is kind of exciting while at the same time daunting.  It is also just wonderful to be in the presence of greatness, to stand beside these people, see how they are moving, and compare it to what I’m doing, and getting nudged toward what I could be doing to expand, express, and hold my space even more.  Truly it was a wonderful experience and I think the best part was that I wasn’t overly intimidated.  I mean, these two compete in the top competitions in the world alongside the likes of Joanna and Michael, many times in the final.  I certainly have an immense amount of respect for them and look up to them.  However, I didn’t feel “less than” them, even though certainly I’m less experienced and on their dance level.  It was a wonderful space to be in because just a few short years ago I think I would have been so “in my head” worried about how bad I was compared to them that I would have missed being truly present with them and what they had to offer as coaches/teachers.  So that’s a big win, not to mention all the other benefits I already mentioned.  And this is especially wonderful in light of my body, my big, pudgy, large, non-dancer-looking body.  I’m still pretty embarrassed about it in general.  I’m still not proud of it, so that is a bummer and brings me to my next section…

The not-so-cheery stuff.

So I hired that guy to help me with my goals and it just didn’t work out.  What I thought I was getting, and what I had actually purchased were two very different things.  Initially I filled out all these forms with all these questions and I was very vulnerable with this guy, telling him everything, pretty much begging him to help me get this done once and for all.  I thought I would be getting coaching, but instead, I got 2 half-hour workouts with his sister as a trainer that didn’t even push me as much as I push myself when I go to the gym on my own and I sent him emails of what I ate every day.  That, plus a 20 page manifesto that was not clear and had a lot of information he never followed up on, as well as a calorie and carbohydrate limit for the day.  So after a few weeks of diligently sending my menu daily, I’d get one word feedback like, “don’t drink Diet Coke” or “Don’t use too much Bragg’s Amino Acids.”  And I was like, hey, I know Diet Coke isn’t like the best choice, however, it’s not the worst, either.  Look at the rest of the day and how awesome I did.  Thanks a lot (not!) for focusing in on the one not-so-great thing – firstly, that’s why I don’t choose it every day, it’s a once in a while (like once in a month) type choice and secondly, I am not about being perfect, and thirdly, I’m already so hard on myself, I already focus in on all my shortcomings and flaws, I don’t need this type of crap from a person who is supposed to be coaching me, ESPECIALLY since this was the only feedback for the entire day – there was NO mention of what I did well, there was no encouragement building me up….and that’s what I thought I’d be getting.  I mean, great, give me feedback about not drinking Diet Coke but, like, anything else you wanna mention?  So basically, I was doing this process on my own, like always, and so why I am I paying for that?  I communicated my true thoughts to him, which is a pretty big deal for me to really speak my truth and to really say, “hey!  This isn’t working for me!”  It’s not always easy for me to declare my needs and ask for what I want but I did.  And he was like, “Well maybe what you need is Life Coaching.”  And that was probably the best advice he gave me.  He’s right – and – based on our interactions – he’s not the coach for me.

So that’s that.  And now here I am, fatty-fat-fat.  At least that is how I am feeling right now.  It’s so disappointing to see my body in the mirror, while at the same time, I’m about 10 pounds down and can move easier, at least it seems so.  It feels like my fat tissues are thinning out, however, when I look in the mirror, I’m still as big as ever.  I don’t see changes, at least not big ones, and I’m still in my same clothing.

I’m still watching my diet and doing my orange theory cardio sessions and getting to the gym twice weekly to get in some heavy weight lifting (last week I did 90 pound deadlifts, which was a personal record and I am looking to do 100 pounds this week because I felt like I could do more.)  Oh – and one of the things the trainer said to me was that as I lost weight I’d lose strength, and that so doesn’t work for me.  No way, Jose!  I intend to continue to get stronger.  That’s totally possible!  Why would a trainer ever say something like that?   Okay so anyways, the process continues, and it feels like it is so Goddamned slow – but what’s new?  A this point it is imperative to stay consistent with the process.  However, something’s got to change, I’m not sure what, because I’m committed to changing!!!  But here’s the deal that’s really hanging me up right now:

I don’t want to compete until I look dramatically different.  On one hand, it’s my line in the sand and I know that it will be such a boost in confidence to really make a change before I dance again.  On the other hand, it’s a big bummer because how long do I not dance because I’m so hung up about my body and my appearance and miss out on something that brings me so much joy?  I don’t know that there is a “right” answer to this, it’s just the crap that is swirling around in my mind.

So Damir told me he talked with Ivan the other day, and I was so excited about it.  I think there is still hope we might dance together again, though I’m not attached to that particular outcome.  But anyways, today I decided to send him a little text just to say I miss him and I hope everything is going great for him and Marieta.  He was happy to get my text and asked me how I was and when I’d be on the dance floor.  All I could say was that I don’t know and that I don’t feel ready yet….and what I didn’t say is that the biggest reason for that (besides not having completed routines lol) is because I’m still fat.  Part of me was tempted to answer, “How are you?”  with “Still too fat to dance with you.”  Because part of me would love to dance with him, but I really want/need to be confident in myself before I do that, and to me, that means having a dramatically smaller, leaner body.

Seriously, it’s really mucking me up inside.  How much do I let my adipose rule my life?  But also, what about compromising on my vow?  That’s really important too.  The answer is seemingly simple:  Just lose the weight, dork!  Then you can dance and not break your vow.  Well, that’s what I’ve been intending to do…and it doesn’t seem to be happening. I mean, on one side it seems like it’s happening because I feel like my body is changing, slightly, but then it doesn’t seem like it’s changing because I’m still in the same clothes and my belly seems so big right now, and I just don’t want to step on the competitive floor like this.  Ugh!!!!

And my mind is so mean to me.  Like today while working out I was so bummed with myself because I can’t do all that is demonstrated, and my heart rate doesn’t get below 160 even when “resting” and it’s just so hard, and I even got my heart rate up to 192 and killed myself, and it’s like still not enough.  My body is so stubborn!  I look around the room and I’m killing myself and so what – I still look like a slob.  I sometimes go into the “It’s so unfair, pity-party, victim bullshit” for a moment or two, I’m not gonna lie.  But even with all this negative Nelly going on, I mean, I’m still there.  Double Ugh!!!  I’m just in a bummer mood lately.  I am also frustrated because it’s a choice to feel this way.  I mean, I could be loving toward myself and happy with myself regardless of my weight.  And yet, my happiness is very much tied up with this.  I know I’d feel better about me if I were thinner.  It’s so crappy!!!!!  It’s so, so crappy.  Like, I withhold love, acceptance, and approval of myself and I think I’ll give it to myself if I were thinner.  But is that even true?  It’s such a racket!  Why am I stuck in this mind spiral?  How do I get out of it?  When is what I do enough even if it is not getting the results I want?  Does that mean it is truly not enough?  When is enough, enough?  When do I just feel good about me  and feel confident about myself just as I am?  Period. Without all these requirements and conditions?  I keep thinking that if I continue to monitor my diet and workout the outcome should be inevitable…but it sure doesn’t seem to be a straight line at all. Triple UGH!!!!

success

Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily asking you for the answers to all these questions lol (Though if you have some kind encouragement or insights, I’m open to hearing that).  Mostly I’m just processing this so it gets out of me and I can move forward toward my goals and dreams.  Because one thing is certain, I’m not giving up!  And there are really big changes in who I used to be and who I am today – like how working out has become a habit and I have a totally different relationship with food, and like how I actually spoke up for myself and stated what wasn’t working for me and what I needed.  These are all good things, and I’m still trucking, damnit!  Even if the results have been disappointing to me thus far.

But speaking of goals and dreams, the showcase is a week away, then after that Damir promises me we’ll sit down and talk about “the plan.” “The plan” meaning what we will do this year.  I think it will have to be flexible, but also I think to actually put something on the calendar will create a shift in urgency and make things real again.  So, we’ll see.

I don’t know how “good” of a blog post this was tonight, but I do know that I can’t be the only one struggling with my body and questioning when I let it hold me back from experiencing joy in life.  I can’t be the only one who struggles with self-esteem, self-appreciation, self-love.  Maybe that has some value in sharing?  Who knows?  Thanks for humoring me.

-Stef

 

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Guest Post: Facing Diagonal Wall

I guess January is Guest Post Month here on the Biggest Girl In The Ballroom and I couldn’t be happier about it.  One of the biggest blessings of staring the blog has been connecting with others.  I’m so glad to be able to help get the word out about other ballroom bloggers and dancers.  
Today you are in for a special treat from Facing Diagonal Wall.  It’s a blog I began following a while ago and I was drawn to it immediately.  The author shares his trials and tribulations and goes through much of the same struggles as I do.  He also has dropped 100 pounds, a goal that I’m still working on.  Facing Diagonal Wall is authentic, sometimes raw, sometimes a triumph and I appreciate getting share the journey with a fellow dancer.  So without further ado, take it away Diagonal!
Hello,
I started a little blog several months ago to talk about my experiences with ballroom dancing which is somewhere on the border between a hobby and an obsession with me.  Through some internet magic, Stefanie discovered my effort and started following my blog and liking a few of my posts.  She graciously offered me the opportunity to post on her site as part of the Ballroom Village she is setting up.  And, after much careful consideration, I took her up on the offer.
First, you should know that I had no previous dance experience and really hadn’t been a big fan of any type of dance.  So how does a guy like that get started?  Well, probably like most men, my wife dragged me into the studio (and that is pretty close to a literal statement).  There was a studio next to a Starbucks we used to go to on weekends and she always said we should learn to dance and I would always say something noncommittal. Finally, she forced my hand by signing up and telling me I could come or stay home.  As luck (or was it really fate??) would have it, because they didn’t know if I was coming, they assigned a male instructor and we got the one who was low key and analytical just like us.  I do wonder how things would have turned out with a different instructor but we clicked with this one right away.  We danced socially for awhile and enjoyed it but she reached a point where she had gotten all she wanted out of it and was having some physical issues, so she quit.
By that time, we were working both with our original instructor and his soon to be wife so I continued working with her and things kind of stalled out until I got talked into doing a showcase which is like a comp but not really a comp.  I remember my legs shaking when I was waiting to do my first routine but it was like a switch was turned on inside me because I felt alive out there on the floor.  And the first thing I wanted to do when it was over was get back out there.
After a little while, I realized that if I was going to fully commit to my new hobby, then I had to get me act together.  I was never thin but I allowed myself to get way overweight and it was a struggle to get through the lessons and I really hated the way I looked so two years ago, I lost over 100 pounds and have kept it off.  Last year, I joined the gym at work and started working with a personal trainer to improve my upper body strength (well, to be honest to actually develop some since I was a couch potato for so long).  It has made a huge difference in my dancing.  At the last showcase, we did 14 smooth heats in a row which would have killed me before.
Unfortunately, my mental transformation has not gone as smoothly.  I am plagued by self-doubt and have a tendency to react negatively to learning each new move.  Well, to be honest, my mental image is still my old stuff and whenever I feel awkward doing a step that my instructor appears to be able to do effortlessly, some evil little voice inside me says “who you kidding fat boy, your not a dancer” and things go off the tracks quickly.  Working on killing this demon and have made progress over time but the mind still can mess with you.
So why did I start doing this?  Well, dancing stirs up a lot of emotions – both positive and negative and I really didn’t have an effective outlet to get them out.  Classic stereotype that turns out to be true – guys don’t talk about feelings and especially feelings related to ballroom dance.  So I turned to the internet where I could just vent into the world.  So you could view this blog as my alter ego allowing me to say and feel things that I would never say to people I know.   In some ways, this might be closer to the real me than the me that everyone sees (weird!)
Anyway, that is why you will not see my name attached to this blog or any real personal information.  For now, I feel more comfortable behind my curtain.  Which is why I did have to think about this for a very long time.  The ballroom community isn’t that large and the more exposure I get, the greater the chance that someone will see through my disguise.  But, since I’ve found value in reading about other people facing the same challenges, I figure that someone might find something in what I post, so it is worth the risk.
So there you go.  That’s who I am and why I started this.  My continuing quest is to be the best dancer I can be and to finally kill that hateful little demon inside me.  Come on over if you want to follow my journey from time to time.  It won’t always be pretty but from time to time it might be entertaining.
Thanks ever so much to Stefanie for allowing me to ramble across her blog like this.  Hopefully, I caused no permanent damage.
Um, no!  No permanent damage here!  Thank you for sharing your story.  I bet others WILL find value in what you have written so I’m glad you took the risk.  
Now, everyone, go on over to Facing Diagonal Wall and follow it so you can enjoy the continuing journey of this member of Ballroom Village!  You won’t want to miss a single step!

Showcase

Well, where to start?

Last night was the showcase.  It was a great experience and completely different than dancing in a competition.  My parents came to come watch along with their dear friends the Watsons.  I got to watch Katie and Mavis dance with Ivan as well as a bunch of other teacher and student couples.  At the end, Ivan and Marietta danced a Cha Cha and a Mambo.  Ivan also made a friend during the evening, a 3-year-old, who he pulled onto the dance floor during one of the heats, which was adorable and entertaining.  Videos of these will be forthcoming but I’m having technical difficulties getting them off my phone at the moment.

Lucky (or not?) for you, I had a friend video my performance on a flip video camera and that came off easy enough so I will include it in the post for your viewing pleasure (or discomfrot…I’m not sure).

The way they set this event up at Dance Starz was that they had little heats in Smooth dancing and then the showcase numbers and then more dancing heats in the American Rhythm category.  They had judges who didn’t just rank the competitors but rather provided specific feedback on their performance, how they could improve, what they did well, and all that.

I didn’t participate in the dancing heats but it was entertaining to watch nonetheless.  I also found out that there were over 120 people present for the event on the Dance Starz page update!  That means about 240 eyes were on me at one time.

You know, I never get that nervous at competitions.  But last night I was very nervous, about ready to pee my pants a few times, before the showcase number.  It is a completely different thing to be the only couple on the floor, all attention focused upon me, and doing a choreographed number that we’ve worked on for a while.  Plus, never at a competition in the divisions in which I compete are there that many people spectating.

In any case, finally it was my turn to dance.  I just watched the video and my feelings are mixed.  When I performed, I felt pretty good about the whole thing.  Maybe not an earth-shattering performance, but pretty solid.  It felt a bit weird dancing it though because usually Ivan and I were pretty solid during the dancing in rehearsals but then shaky toward the end of the number especially on the last move.  But last night the reverse was true.  We were both antsy and shaky during the number but we pretty much nailed the final pose.  As you will see on the video, Ivan was so happy that he actually kissed my belly at the end.  I didn’t even feel it.  I was staring at the upside down audience.

So anyways,  When I got into my starting position, the music began pretty abruptly.  You’ll see in the video that I was a little unsure in my first few steps.  Ivan and Katie also experienced some music problems with the song cutting in and out during their number.  I had the disadvantage of being choreographed with the first note of music, no introductory notes providing time to take a breath and then move.  Anyways, I wobble a little bit in the beginning but then just kept going.

Also as the dance progresses, my top comes up revealing my belly a few times.  I had no idea this was happening during the dancing.  For a slim person this might not be bothersome, but I was pretty much cringing while watching the recording.  But hey, I’m all about the whole authentic truth, you know, so here’s how it was.  Note to self: next time use safety pins!

Also, I’m glad I wore some swimming trunks under my skirt.  It raised up higher than I’d prefer a few times, especially during a few turns.  Why did I choose to do ballroom dancing when I have so many body issues already?  Aargh!

Okay, enough griping.  I’m pretty pleased with the passion I put into the number.  I think it shows on my a face a few times.  And, I got lots of compliments on the number, such as, “lovely,” “fantastic,” “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and got chills,” “You were my favorite.”  Ivonne’s congratulations were the best.  She gave me a big hug and didn’t let go.  She almost had tears in her eyes and said how proud she was of me.  All this felt really good to be sure, however, seeing myself on film, I’m not 100% pleased.  I find it really difficult to watch myself, especially when I don’t love my body in its current state.  But if the choice is to dance or not to dance, I’m going to choose dancing, no matter how I look.  Life is too short, you know?

Ivan said that we danced about 70% of what we could do, and upon reflection, think I agree with him.  The nerves didn’t help but hopefully there will be other opportunities to improve this number and dance it again.  Losing some more weight wouldn’t hurt either, that’s for sure!  Once again, I was the biggest girl in the ballroom. Sigh.

But one of the most magical moments actually came from a fellow dancer.  She did a fantastic number to the Austin Powers theme song with her instructor that was very entertaining and completely in 60’s character.  In any case, she came up to me at one point and told me that she reads the blog.  I was so excited but didn’t really know how to respond.  She said to me, “You know that line in Jerry Maguire, ‘You complete me?’ Well you express me.”  Like when she reads about my experiences dancing she is reading by extension about herself and how she feels about the process.  I guess I’m doing something right with the blog and that it is providing some value to people and for that bit of feedback I am truly, truly grateful.  It’s nice to know there are more people out there like me and that I am not alone.

Alright, enough “talking.”  Without further ado, here is the dang video so you can judge it for yourself.  Please be gentle!

Stroking The Ego Or Simply Acknowledging My Greatness???

Tomorrow is the showcase.

I’m currently on a hunt for some nude extra-large adult fishnet stockings.  I realized that I needed them after remembering last night that I threw out my last pair after competing at Galaxy.  I have a lesson with Ivan scheduled in 2 hours and I’m hoping to have them in hand by then to do a “full dress rehearsal.”

Maybe it’s the old training from Glenda Folk, but I want to see how it feels to dance in my outfit with the nylons and all.  I don’t want any wardrobe malfunctions and usually I wear things that cover the booty completely.  Now I have to figure out if I’m going to be okay with the stockings alone since I am wearing a skirt or if I’m going to need to find some bike shorts too.  I don’t think I have a black leotard in my closet anymore but that would probably be the best thing to wear underneath.  I mean, I am doing a high leg kick and there are some dips.

The last time I danced was Tuesday.  I had a lesson with Ivan during which we pretty much warmed up and then ran the Rumba 4 times or so.  Some run-throughs were better than others.  I’m a little concerned about how it will go tomorrow evening after a full day of work and no time to warm up before we perform.  It will be in a different space than we’ve been practicing and with different elements in the space such as an audience, perhaps low lighting, and who knows how well the music will work out.  I don’t know when I perform, what order things will happen.  All I can say is, pretty good thing for me that I am a “go with the flow” type of gal in this instance.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my control issues, but in this case I’m happy enough just to let things unfold as they will.  Worrying won’t change it so I’m not going to waste one precious moment putting panic energy into the situation.

It’s not that I’m worried, per se, it’s more that I want to do an amazing job.  It’s my first time doing an actual ballroom routine in a showcase with just me and my instructor on the floor.  It’s not Dancing With The Stars, that’s for sure!  I’ll only have maybe 20 pairs of eyes on me, not 20 million!

It will be what it will be.  I’m excited but not nervous.  I usually don’t get nervous until the moment before!  Then I’m practically shaking.  But once we start moving, I’m sure it will all be okay.

Woudln’t you know it? The showcase was originally planned on a day when my husband was out-of-town and got rescheduled to another date that he is out-of-town. He left for San Francisco this morning. But that is why video cameras exist.

So anyways, after dancing with Ivan in the morning last Tuesday, I also went to class with Inna in the evening.  It was my 8 year wedding anniversary so Ty and I had some sushi and then I was off.  We made a point to watch a movie together the previous night and last night, the day after our anniversary, we also spent some quality time together.  But that class is so good, and my husband understands how important it is to me, that he gladly let me go.

Surprise, surprise, it was a night of Paso Doble!

Besides the Jive, Paso Doble is the dance in the Latin category that I’ve practiced the least.  I’m not all that familiar with the basic steps nor do I know how to count it.  But Inna gave us a few moves and made up some combinations and I did my best to follow along.

I have no idea what the figure is called, but we started with a movement pushing our hips forward, raising up on our “tippy toes,” (as Inna calls it), pushing our chest upward and outward, and pulling our arms behind our back to create a bow shape through the front of our bodies, all over a full count of eight.

It was tiring!  I kept losing my balance, bobbling on my toes.  I’m used to balancing up there with my legs straight, as in a ballet releve’ but with this awkward bow position with my chest not directly above my hips, I had a hard time finding my new center.  I got a bit better over the evening, but it was quite a challenge!  Plus, we were using back and hip muscles not normally activated in Rumba or Cha Cha.  Inna advised us that if we felt discomfort in our lower backs, then we were doing it right!  “And,” she said, “the good news is there are no hips!”

Yes, no hips, but there is stomping, and balancing, and portraying the fiery nature of the dance, being as serious as a bullfighter, holding your arms taut, doing steps you are not comfortable with….well, it’s quite a trade-off.

In any case, I did the best I could, stomping and parading, and portraying.  Some interesting things happened as I explored the movement.

At first, I tried very hard to imitate Inna, exactly how she was moving.  I mean, I got the general idea and created mostly the same shapes.  But on this one part we were raising our arms in a large circle while stepping sideways and I could not figure out how Inna was creating a twist with her shoulders.  I tried making it happen for a few minutes and royally messed up the steps but then something kind of magical happened.  I watched how I was doing it in the mirror and I figured it looked pretty good.  The lines were different than those of Inna, maybe more straight up or something, but still aesthetically pleasing.  After all, the steps are set in stone via the syllabus but the arm styling, as far as I understand it, is up to artistic interpretation.

Perhaps I was doing it completely wrong.  And if you put me next to Inna on the dance floor she’s gonna kick my butt every time.  However, I decided in that moment to that I’d forget it.  I decided, “I’m not Inna.  I’m not able to make my arms look exactly like hers.  Mine look pretty good the way I’m doing it so I’m just going to go with that…fully commit to how I, Stefanie, am interpreting the steps, and let it be enough.”

I didn’t realize it in the class but as I reflected upon the experience later that night, I realized that I had actually stood in my own space as a dancer/artist.  It kind of came up on me as a surprise.  I mean, I’ve been trained from the get-go to always look to my teachers for guidance and feedback.  I’m conditioned to look outside of myself to see how I am doing.

For whatever reason this time I looked inward and found my own answer.

The other interesting thing that happened during the lesson was that Inna had me and Rose go across the floor alone doing the combination.

At first Inna just told Rose to do it but then she added my name and Rose was so happy she didn’t have to do it by herself.  She also asked Inna to go in front of us.  Neither of us was feeling particularly confident about knowing the combination.

My trepidation was well founded.  I screwed up multiple times but I just laughed every time I messed up!  I then recommitted to the next step, doing it the best I could.

When we reached the other side of the ballroom floor Rose was smiling widely.  She told me that I had been cracking her up and that even Inna had been smiling as we made our way across the studio because she could hear me giggling the entire way.

Later she told me, “You are an awesome dancer!”  Now coming from Rose, that means a lot.  You should she how this sassy gal moves her hips!  Actually, you can, because I’ve put links to her dancing on the Dancing With Stefanie Facebook Page.

Then later, either she or someone else in the class said, “You pick things up so quickly!”  I attribute this to all my dancing with Glenda Folk.  We were expected to pick things up rather quickly and I always thought I was pretty average to slow at it.  I’d see how quickly professionals are expected to remember a routine, like the pace on SYTYCD or as a kid watching the movie A Chorus Line, and I’d be flabbergasted, thinking I could never pick things up that quickly.

Then, as we were doing our usual Cha Cha combination across the floor, I got another unexpected, unsolicited comment.  One of the males in the class told me “I love the way you move!”

Now, why am I telling you all this?  I mean, why all the “bragging on myself?”  I guess it just is so interesting to me how I perceive myself versus how others perceive me.

Of course hearing things like this feels good.  It strokes the ego.  But it is a slippery slope, as they say.  It’s like walking along the razor edge of a sword….one step to the left or right and you are off the path, and ouch!  How to hold both realities that I am amazing, great, fantabulous, and also have SO much work to do, nowhere near perfection, and still making a ton of amateur mistakes.

You know what?  I am both.  I absolutely am.  I have these momentary lapses of amazing greatness, and also a lot of screw ups, many times on the very same lesson.  And guess what…that’s okay.  I’m human, after all, right?  Oh yeah…aren’t I a spiritual being having a human experience rather than the other way around?  Who knows.  It sure as hell isn’t me!  lol.

So here’s to the flawed, imperfect, messed up part of me and also to the amazing, flawless, perfect part of me.  Both exist in my world.  Both will probably come out to play tomorrow for the showcase.

And, because of that, it is gonna be awesome.

-Stef

Check Your Ego At The Door

Although the breathing issues are still present, they have improved somewhat and I have been able to get back to some dancin’ with Ivan.  This is a very good thing, though I still missed class with Inna, Marieta, and Toni this week.

I’ve been mostly working on a performance piece for an upcomming showcase which was originally scheduled for February 24th.  Wouldn’t you know it but just after I sent out an email to my nearest and dearest friends and family about my very first showcase with a solo routine I got word that the date was changed.

I have to admit, I’m kinda bummed.  Yeah, they say that it is just rescheduled, not cancelled, and I will get extra time to practice my routine (and based on my lesson today I could use it), plus, my husband had a potential scheduling conflict so he was uncertain he would be able to come see me dance, but even with all these positives, I was still all geared up and excited for this thing that I had been working toward for a month to finally happen.  It knocked the wind out of my sails a little bit, if you know what I mean.

This was after my lesson this morning.

Now, as you know I love Ivan as my teacher.  He is just amazing in so many ways.  From his idiot-savant-type spiritual guidance to his knowledge of ballroom dancing and technique, and his ability to draw things out of me I didn’t know were there, to his capacity to see my potential, I just think he’s the cat’s meow.

But I’ve also mentioned that he has an intense side and boy was it out to play today.  You know what, though, I can also be very intense.  When I get focused on a task at work, for instance, I can become so set on that particular thing to the exclusion of others.  Intensity can be great, at times.  Today, however, on my lesson, I felt like when it came to my routine, I couldn’t have done anything right enough to please my instructor.

It sounds kind of harsh, maybe, but sometimes it is just what is needed.  I think it’s good to be humbled at times as a reminder of how much work there is left to do.  I have enjoyed many nice compliments on my dancing over my “career,” and even recently Nona, Ivan’s mother-in-law (Marieta’s mom) who is an excellent ballroom dancer and instructor herself, told me that I was was doing well.  I take that as a great compliment and acknowledgement of how far I’ve come.  Nona saw me when I first started dancing with Jeff back in August of last year, so she can see the difference.  She basically told me, “I don’t know what Ivan’s telling you, but it’s working.  You are looking great out there.”

Well anyways, today I needed to check my ego at the door of the dance studio.  Not that I’m like, an egotistical maniac, or that I think that I’ve “arrived,” or even that I walk around thinking, “I’m such a great dancer!” But with all the nice compliments lately, it’s easier to become complacent.  To think, “Hey!  I’m doing okay here!  I’m actually pretty good.”

But if I’m honest, I don’t want to settle for “good.”  I want to be great.  Also, I know good and well there are some major issues with my dancing…balance, being on my heels instead of my toes, my weight, my cardiovascular capacity and stamina, arm styling…just to name a few.  There is always room for improvement, as they say.

Well, anyways, I nailed the opening steps of the showcase routine and Ivan tells me “Perfect! Perfect!” This kind of feedback is what my ego likes.

It went well until the first spiral turn, which I always lose my balance while doing because I’m trying to do this arm thing and not look like a ballerina (which, when I do the ballerina arms, I can keep my balance….go figure).  So it started to downhill from there.

Then we did an underarm turn.  I freakin’ hate the arm on that – shooting my arm straight out.  I asked Ivan if there was something different I could do there.  We came up with running my arm behind my head but then like a minute later I did a turn with my arm completely down (another bad habit that occurs when I’m focusing on fixing something else) and Ivan was like, “You complain you want to do a different arm, but then you don’t even do the basic beginner arm styling! I prefer you do the simple movement and do it well than to do what you just did.”

Okay, feedback.  Okay, note to self, work on damn arms…wait didn’t I already know that?

Then I’m screwing up this walking turn thing.  I’m sure it has a name…spot turn, maybe?  Anyways, I’m giving Ivan a good frame, but according to him I’m not moving my feet enough and I’m leaning in with my upper body.

Okay, stop that.

Then on to sliding doors.  I’m doing the same leaning thing with my upper body in this step.  Ivan tells me to cut it out, to get out of his space.

Then on to this step where I go forward on my right and then flip 180 degrees, switch my weight, then step forward.  Again, my body is leaning sideways, I’m pulling on Ivan, making it difficult and sloppy and slow.

By the end of all this feedback (and more that I’m just not listing here), my brain was boggled and I felt pretty crappy about myself and my dancing abilities.  I mean, I’m still trying to remember the entire routine. It’s like 4 minutes long. So I’m not certain 100% of the time what I’m doing. And with uncertainty for me comes tensing up. So I’m thinking to myself, you not only want me to do the steps but execute them correctly, too?

I’m being facetious here! Of course I want to do the steps well! But this is a big bite to chew.

But you know what?  We danced the routine just one last time and somehow I was able to incorporate a vast majority of all the feedback I’d been given, and although I didn’t feel very good emotionally about it, I realized I’d actually danced it better, cleaner, and more on balance.

I’m grateful I have an instructor who can help me do that, even if it means my ego gets a little bruised.

At the end of the lesson another student entered the studio and asked me how I was doing.

“Pretty good,” I replied.  “But Ivan’s being a task master today.  We’re working on a routine for this showcase next week and I have a lot to work on.  Ivan’s making me dance myself, be on my own feet.  I’m like, ‘What do you mean, Ivan?  You don’t want me to hang on you?  That’s the best part!'”  We all laughed.

In all seriousness, though, I think it is such a gift to have an instructor who would rather risk bruising my ego and give me honest feedback as well as the means to correct some bad habits so that I may be empowered as a dancer than keep me dependent on him.  I just have to remember to check my ego at the door and embrace the feedback.  It got me some awesome results today.  My ego may not like the corrections or miss being told how great I am, but my spirit is glad.  And, I want to evolve into my best dancing self and I can’t let anything, not even my very own ego, get in the way of that.  I’m really grateful, too, that I just went with it today.  If my ego had really gotten out of hand such that I’d reacted emotionally and got all butt-hurt that Ivan was being more intense about fixing stuff today, it would have seriously gotten in the way and I would have missed out on the lessons and results.

It also made me realize that there is always more I could be doing.  I could be practicing more, and after today, especially on this routine, I think I will…in fact, I have a date scheduled with my friend Ivonne to do just that on Saturday.  Also, I have occasionally taken notes after my lessons to remember what we talked about or what I felt in my body or learned on the lesson but I haven’t done it for months.  That’s just lazy.  Today I immediately sat down and jotted down the main corrections.

But most of all, I was reminded that I am much more than my personality or my ego.  Yes, they are parts of me, vital parts, but they do not comprise the whole being that I am.  I was reminded that my ego may not like how things are presented sometimes but that when I can acknowledge that and yet still remain open to the feedback and find the value in it, I may benefit greatly in such a way that creates fantastic results.  Sure praise and positive attention feel great, but you know what feels better?

Improving.

Yes it sure does.