I woke up this morning and I have a soreness in my left back side, below the shoulder but above the hips. Right where the kidneys are. It seems muscular because it is exacerbated with certain movements and painless when sitting still. Unfortunately the movements that make it hurt are those found in the Samba, Cha Cha, or Rumba – exactly the dances Ivan decides to work on with me today. I try to stretch it out but it is actually still causing me some discomfort. Probably a 6 on a scale of 10 when activated. Thankfully it is tolerable and disappears completely when not activated.
So I ignore the ache as much as I can and Ivan wants to start right away with Samba, his favorite dance. We get through our little routine twice pretty easily except he doesn’t like the way I’m doing this little circular back step in which I stick out my butt. He wants me to engage more with the upper body and makes me do it like 20 times, then practice doing it actually against the wall.
I’ve decided to wear my new heels for the first time today. The practice shoes are so comfy and cushy, but they have a thicker and shorter heel making balance much easier to find. I won’t have this luxury for the showcase dance so I need to start conditioning my feet once again. But Ivan doesn’t like them so much. He says that on the left foot, the way my weight is and how the shoe fits my foot, that the heel is going to go out sideways on me. I’m like, how can you tell that? But guess what, it happened. The heel slipped sideways a few steps after we started. Seriously, I think it is weird that male ballroom dancers know so much about heels. A previous instructor of mine knew a lot about them too.
“This the last time you buy these American Ballroom shoes. Next time Supadance or Dance Naturals.”
That is fine and well, but I must try on the shoe first! I’ve had a pair of Dance Naturals at one point but they didn’t really fit my feet because I purchased them online. And this time around, when I went to an actual brick and mortar shoe store I saw some heels I liked but when I put them on my feet they just didn’t work. For now, the ones I have will just have to be okay. They are pretty darn comfortable, and my foot looks cute in them. I just don’t want to hurt my ankle if the heel keeps slipping out like that. Time will tell.
Next it is on to Latin Cha Cha. I’m doing the steps but not dancing with Ivan. He’s like, “Stop thinking about all the emotional stuff.”
I’m like, “I’m not thinking about emotional stuff! I’m throwing myself off balance because I’m leaning, collapsing. I have to rememer to keep my spine straight.” I correct my posture and immediately the movement is easier, more controlled, and more balanced. But I’m not looking at Ivan. Not really looking into his eyes. I’m so focused on all the stuff I’m thinking about (posture, the steps, balance, my feet hurt in the heels, my legs are tired, my back hurts, etc, etc, etc) that I’m not really being present.
He imitates me (exaggerating a little, I hope) kind of stumbling around looking nowhere…like a zombie trying to do a Cha Cha. He throws me out for a fan. I’m supposed to look at him then interact with the imaginary audience to the side, then, as I switch my weight on count 2, I’m to look at him again. I’m to look into his eyes through that step into a Hockey Stick. Look at him until the last second before I turn then find him directly once again.
Haven’t I heard this before? Yes, yes. I sure have. But the habit of disconnection still rears its ugly head.
I refocus and look into Ivan’s eyes…for realsies. You know, the difference between looking and seeing. It creates an intagible but real connection. I’m connected and we do the steps again.
“They gonna see we dancing with each other, not just doing the steps.”
You know, this is my greatest secret wish come true. My first instructor used to tell me that he was only dancing with like 70% of his power. That I couldn’t handle his 100%. Now maybe this was true. But also, it seems like he was holding back. He wasn’t open to truly dancing with me or he didn’t consider me his equal. In terms of dance knowledge and ability at that time, I was most certainly his inferior, but as a human being, we are all equal, and couldn’t he have danced 100% with that part? I used to promise myself I’d get good enough that he’d dance with me 100%. But I’m thinking now that probably he wasn’t capabale of dancing with me that way, and I’m still not capable of it, except for in very focused, present moments.
I mean, for sure Ivan is superior to me in terms of technique, practice, and experience. But he still wants to dance with me, not just go through the motions. I never get the feeling he is holding back or that he thinks I’m not up to the challenge. If anything, he sees more potential in me that I can see sometimes. Ivan sees me. He sees the dancer in me. And he calls her forth. She can’t hide, even when she tries.
So the most miraculous thing happened. I was doing a fan and I looked to the imaginary audience as I stepped to the side and this time I was facing a mirror. As I did my little fan, I actually liked the way it looked! I actually liked it a lot. Trust me, that doesn’t happen very often. I can think I look “pretty good” sometimes, and at others I just see that something isn’t quite right but I don’t know how to fix it. Or I see my flaws, or things I don’t like about my body. But in this moment, I saw that dancer inside. I saw how she was confidently connecting and moving, and I liked it. I liked me. And it felt really good.
I was being with me, rather than the chatter in my head, the pain in my body, or any other distraction. I was seeing me.
And for the first time in a long time, not only was it not scary, but I actually liked what I saw.