My goodness. Lots has happened in my dancing life in the last 72 hours.
First, USDC has been going on. I have many friends who danced there and it was exciting to hear how they did, as well as to watch some of the professional performances via live streaming on the web. It is amazing to feel connected to the dancers. Lots of them I just admire from afar, but others I have a personal connection to, or, since ballroom is a small world, sometimes I am just one person removed. For instance, my friend “Lady Gaga” is a student of the current national American Rhythm champion, Decho, and of course I have personal ties to Ivan and Marieta and Artem and Inna. I also am aware of other pro dancers and have briefly interacted with many in the Phoenix area or at other competitions I attended, all of which makes me feel connected in a personal way. (By the way, I call my friend Lady Gaga for two reasons: first, to protect her anonymity, and second, because Ivan had trouble saying her actual name and dubbed her Lady Gaga.)
Me and Lady Gaga – a new partnership!
Anyways, it is exciting to see my classmates be recognized for their amazing dancing, and to get to watch the pros. I was especially intrigued by something that happened in the American Rhythm final. The couple who got second place, Emmanuel and Liana, got a standing ovation from the crowd and they even did a victory lap, grandstanding. Then very interestingly, the champions received only polite clapping. It seems perhaps the audience disagreed with the judges’ decision. I have to say that personally, I did feel that Emmanuel and Liana danced stronger that particular evening than the winners, though all the couples in the final, as well as many other who were cut in earlier rounds, were pretty darn amazing. Is this just a case of an uninformed audience who doesn’t understand what they are seeing? I doubt it considering most of that audience are dancers themselves and have some level of expertise. It begs the question why was the judges evaluation so at odds with what the audience ascertained from the performances? Of course flashy moves that may not be executed with as high a level of technique may capture the audience attention, but hey, that is partly what ballroom is all about. I just think it was very interesting.
I loved the ability to stream the competition online though I wish it were televised. I suppose it’s a pretty niche market here in the US, kind of like Rugby or Lacrosse, but I think especially in Europe, it is much more followed and they do televise the bigger competitions. I’d love to see this available in the US as well, but at least I can stream the “real deal.” I enjoy DWTS and all, but it is like a cotton candy, cream puff version of ballroom. I give the stars and pros on that show props for the hard work they do and the good dancing they produce, but the parts I especially love are when they showcase what the pros can do. However, it’s still worlds apart from an actual ballroom competition.
I don’t think the average American viewer of DWTS has any concept of what ballroom is really like. And, on the world/European stage it is even more different. I do think it takes some education to actually understand what you are seeing in the case of say, watching International Standard Ballroom. Plus, if you have no idea how difficult it is to execute these moves, it might not be as exciting, to a general viewer, than the “flash and trash” shown on DWTS. Me, I love all dance, pretty much and appreciate different aspects of it in different contexts, but still, I’d personally love to see competitions broadcast live. I wish that PBS show of the Ohio Star Ball was still going on. In fact, I’m so “into” all this stuff, that I hunt down pictures and results of people I know and share them on the Facebook page for the blog. It’s fun pretending to be a “ballroom correspondent!” I don’t know who, if anyone, actually cares about this stuff they obsessive way I do, but oh well. It floats my boat.
In any case, watching the USDC added some excitement to my mundane week and it also motivated me once again to get with the program and live up to my dance manifesto. Why? Well, because I want to be there next year! I want to be at the bigger competitions, and not just as a spectator. I want to be a fierce competitor. So, I have a year. Let’s see what progress I can make in that time. I’ve made a deal with myself. After Galaxy, I am not going to even think about competing until I shed 50 pounds. I just have to, for myself, be different the next time I take the floor. I just won’t do it if I don’t look significantly different. It’s important to me. I’m not going to like, wait to be “perfect” or at my final goal before I play, but there needs to be significant, apparent, progress. It’s just something I’ve got to do for me. I believe in my potential too much to just lay down or settle for less than my best, and being my best in terms of ability, athleticism, artistry, will greatly have to do with my physical body and it’s health.
Alright, enough of that! That’s looking a bit ahead. And Galaxy is in just a few short days. In fact, I’ve already gotten my nails put on and the first layer of the spray tan. I’m meeting Marieta about some accessories tomorrow, and making the hair and makeup appointments. Just a short 3 day work week then dancing for 4 days in a row! Woo!
And probably the very best part is that I’m on home turf this time. I have friends who will also be dancing, more so than at Desert Classic. Also, there will be other students of Ivan to share the table with, and my family will be able to attend.
Two of those friends who will be dancing at Galaxy are Lady Gaga and my friend who I will call “Skinny Blue Eyes.” We went out dancing last night and, I have to say, it was magical. I happened to see a post on Facebook for a Dance Phoenix group to which I’m subscribed advertising a guest instructor for a Rumba lesson at Lady Gaga’s home studio. I put a shout out to my buds spontaneously, and both said “yes!” to going. We were kind of hoping, from the course description, that maybe the class would be something similar to Inna’s class, but alas, it was another social dancing class. However, since I already knew the steps as a girl, I chose to attempt to learn the boy part. That was an excellent choice for two reasons, one, I got to practice being the man with my guinea pig Skinny Blue Eyes, a process in which and hilarity and fun ensued, and two, I got to appreciate the tough job of the man in ballroom dancing.
It felt so completely awkward to reverse the hold in rumba. Plus I lacked a basic boy skill which would be leading a cross-body lead. It was challenging, but super fun. It actually made me more motivated to learn the guy part on more steps. One day I think it’d be awesome to be a Dancing Classrooms instructor or something. Plus, it might give me more insight in the mechanics of the dance and help me to be a stronger partner. Anyways, it was very fun, even if it felt completely weird.
But after the class, we were hungry for more. The three of us went to an open dance party at another local studio, and I braved the social dancing scene once again. Previously, at other studios, I’ve had fairly disappointing experiences, even getting injured once. So I was wary, but I was with friends and figured I’d risk it. Boy am I glad I did. It reminded me of how magical it can be to social dance. The fact that you can not know a person’s name and then move in unison with them is mind-blowing. I had the pleasure of dancing with a lot of leaders last night who gave clear, confident leads. I floated across the floor in some lovely Waltzes, did the Merengue with men older than my grandpa, and especially enjoyed some frantic Swing and Mambo with an older gentleman who was an instructor in the past and knew all the moves. I spun for most of the songs and it was ever so much fun! I do think I will be back to do it again, which is a first for me, because it was so comfortable and safe. It was a great, friendly crowd for the most part and I even enjoyed dancing the Cha Cha on the wrong beat because the leader was respectful. Oh, and I learned the Night Club Two Step. It helped that my friends could make some introductions so that I could dance but once I did, and people could see that I moved well, then others felt more confident asking me. I think it would be a great way to burn some more calories while enjoying myself!
Skinny Blue Eyes, Me, and Lady Gaga
So I got home around 1am which is super late for me, but I got enough sleep in to be well rested for my double lesson this morning with Mr. Ivan. And what a lesson it was. I am feeling more confident in my dancing, overall, though it was quite challenging to dance in my new heels, which feel less secure and maybe have a slightly higher heel than my other heels (and are certainly more difficult to wear than my comfy practice shoes!) But I coped pretty well, and I think it makes my movement look more feminine and delicate. I definitely need to practice more in my heels, but my feet need more conditioning, as well as my ankles and calves, and of course losing more weight can only make it all easier. So my plan for the competition and on future lessons is to see how much I can do in my new, snazzy, sexy shoes, and then put my old heels on if necessary. My smooth heels are considerably shorter and much easier to move in, and this time I have ones with actual straps on them so they shouldn’t fly off my feet or cause me to fall like has happened in my last two competitions.
And, today on my lesson, I’m happy to report I had a Tango breakthrough. I find it hilariously frustrating that a tiny little fix can change the entire quality of a dance. Tango has been a struggle for me, and the dance that Ivan says I was hanging on him the most. All it took was for me to do the movement by myself. Ivan prompted me to lift my toe and drag my heel of the front foot when I stepped backward and bam! Everything changed. I mean everything. It’s not like I didn’t “know” this, oh I did. I’d heard it before and even practiced it. But after doing it alone a bit Ivan partnered up with me and it was as light as a feather! He was pleased and so was I.
It goes back to the idea that I need to be able to dance every step by myself, then partner with Ivan (or any other leader). It happened in the Bolero as well. And Ivan needs to work on pulling back, not holding me up so much because when he does that I’m allowed/forced to be on my own feet and hold my own balance and I actually tend to do better. Of course there are steps still where I need an assist, but I can’t know what those steps are without the kinetic feedback of having to “dance myself.”
Anyways, It was a great, empowered feeling, and I’m really motivated about dancing right now. I’m excited just to dance and reveal myself at Galaxy, in my present incarnation. I’ve decided it will be fun. Period. I am going to do my darndest to live my dance manifesto and enjoy the experience. That is all that is required…this time around. Then, the work of transforming my body and really stepping into the competitor I know I can be, because that is what I want to do.
I’m excited. I’m excited about my stupid fake tan, and about my new shoes, and about social dancing. I’m full of vivacity, and looking forward to my lesson tomorrow, and to the competition. I’m looking forward to the next one after that, too! I’m looking forward to Inna’s class, and to meeting more ballroom friends, and cheering them on. I’m also excited to go watch some professional Swing dancing tonight at the convention that’s in town. Benji Schwimmer is here and hopefully I’ll get to see him bust a move!
Ta-ta for now. I’m sure another I’ll have another post soon with all that is going on! And a special thanks to my dear ballroom friends Skinny Blue Eyes and Lady Gaga for being so awesome and sharing a spectacular night alongside me. I treasure having you in my life.