I’m Gonna Find My Inner Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer

If you haven’t been watching SYTYCD, you should be.

It’s like, my fav-o-rite dance show evarrrrr.

And it relates to the title of my post. You know, everything happens for a reason and there are signs everywhere if we have the eyes to see them. The messages in my life abound. They come via friends, conversations, encounters at the grocery store, and even while watching t.v.

Tonight something Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer said on the on the show really stuck with me. He was asked to dance for his life. This happens when the judges aren’t sure about a dancer but he still has enough support that he or she gets one final chance to win the judges over for a spot on the show. He had to perform his solo, doing the style of dance that he is best at.

While very nervous in the previous rounds, Cyrus suddenly seemed calm and centered. Peaceful. Cat Deely interviewed him before he put it all on the line and he said, “There is no better feeling than being myself. I cannot wait to show the judges what I got.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks.

It represented what I call a paradigm shift.

If you haven’t already figured it out from reading my blog, I sometimes struggle with self-esteem issues, confidence issues, and body image issues. And I am also a dancer. A ballroom dancer. You know, those super sexy and elegant creatures, very feminine, confident, love having all the attention on them. Like, the very opposite of how I generally feel inside. But that is not why I am a dancer. I am a dancer because I was born that way, even if I didn’t even realize it for portions of my life. Dance lives inside me. My job, my biggest struggle, is to simply let it out, get out of my own way. To halt my hang-ups and insecurities, and analysis to paralysis, and negative thinking from getting in the way of the expression of that greater spirit that sometimes comes out when I let it.

So when Cyrus said what he said about there being nothing better than being himself and being so excited to share that with the judges, it was like, what? That thought never occurred to me.

You see, my aim for the Desert Classic, the goal behind the goal if you will, is not just to dance well, or place high, or even to get a top student award, it is actually to allow myself to be seen. To have dances full of pure dance, connection, joy. To let myself go to the places I usually keep dammed up, closed. I guess, in the end, it’s really about being vulnerable. Like some part of me is afraid to really let that show because I don’t necessarily feel like Cyrus. I don’t always feel like it’s awesome to be me. If I don’t feel great about myself, why would I want to share it? I’d want to only reveal the polished veneer, to look good.

You know, in theory, I believe we are all special, even me. We all have our own unique greatness. But when it comes to actually feeling that way about myself I waver between delusions of grandeur and being a squashed bug. Like in my dancing, sometimes I think I’m awesome. Other times, I feel like I can’t do anything right.

But the part of me that is actually awesome is bigger than any dance technique. It’s the part that my friend Colette saw when I danced on my birthday with Ivan. She told me, “I don’t know if it was the wine, but when you danced that night you shone.” It’s the part that my mom saw that brought her to tears when I danced in the showcase. It’s the part that gives Ivan goosebumps every once in a while when we dance together, like happened this morning for no particular reason I could discern.

But OMG, do you know what he told me Monday morning? There I was, struggling through more Rumba walks (in my head concentrating on my hips, getting over my feet, not slapping them on the floor, making my arms move, not dying because of the cardio, etc, etc, etc.) I was in the space of knowing that what I was doing just wasn’t good enough. That I was lacking proper technique…something Ivan was quick to remind me of, correcting something every few steps. And he tells me some fixes, and I do the best I can to implement them and you know what he tells me? He says, “I jealous of you.”

Like, say WHAT? Back that train up!

Here is this man, this amazing dancer. This person that I look up to and wish I could move like him, or Marieta. And he’s telling me that he’s jealous of me. I couldn’t believe it.

Like, what on earth did he have to be jealous of?

He explained. “You getting it so quickly! I have to practicing years and years and I never move like this. It’s cause you have talent.”

I have always thought that it really wasn’t talent. It was the fact that I danced as a kid and had a great teacher who knew her technique in ballet, tap, and jazz. I worked really hard to be moderately good in those genres, but I knew I’d never be able to do say the kind of dancing that is performed on SYTYCD. I knew I’d never be a professional dancer.

But ballroom is different. Not only is all about connection and partnering, but it seems to fit the way my body moves like a glove. By this I mean my hips are very flexible. Apparently this is not the case for a lot of people. I never gave it a second thought because it just came naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of technique to absorb, and a lot of working it though, but I think the base is there.

Anyways, I thought Ivan was totally off his rocker. I would give anything to move like he and Marieta or Inna…but then again, maybe I should rethink that?

You know, on Tuesday night I went to get my butt kicked in Inna’s class and we did Rumba, Cha Cha, and Samba. There is some tricky stuff in all three dances to master, and Inna often has students demonstrate what we are working on. It’s good because it gets us used to performing, being in front of others, being uncomfortable. etc. So at one point she had me do a Samba combination across the floor.

As an aside, I think I am actually doing better in the class in terms of stamina. Trust me, it’s nowhere near where it needs to be, but we had a new student in the class who looked like she was really fit. Even she was like, “When is this class gonna be over?” I had to laugh. I’ve so been there! But at least last night I was hanging in there pretty well.

So back to the Samba combo. Anyways, after class Inna said to me, “I love your Samba.”

Wow! That’s so cool. And I was like, “Thanks Inna.”

“It’s so much better!” She said.

Which is true. I actually had a lesson with her while Ivan was in Bulgaria getting married specifically to work on my Samba bounce – that tricksy movement! So she knew where I had started from.

Anyways, that felt like a pretty good acknowledgement. See, Stef, there has been progress. You are becoming a better dancer. Enough that others notice.

But every time I think about the Desert Classic, which happens multiple times during the day, I get butterflies in my stomach. Part of me is excited. Part of me is nervous.

I wonder if I will have the stamina to do what I need to do. I waver between being okay with how my body is because it isn’t going to change all that much between now and the competition, and just trusting that I move well and will be expressive and that it will be enough, and then freaking out because I am going to look so different from most of my competitors.

Well, I guess I’m deciding right now that screw it. Screw it all! Screw all the chatter in my head! It just needs to shut up!

Instead I’ll listen to Ivan and the music. I will tune into the dance.

I’m big. But I’ll be big in all ways, not just in my ass. I will be noticed. And not just for my size. I think it’s kind of unavoidable that I will be noticed for that initially. But that doesn’t have to be the main attraction. Instead, I will then begin to move. And from then on, I will be noticed because I will shine.

You know, I’ve got to get over myself and just set aside all this B.S. I will find my inner Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer and love being me, at least for the time that I’m dancing. I will find my inner Cyrus and be so excited to “show those judges what I’ve got.” Whatever that looks like in the moment.

I suppose I’m giving myself a little pep talk here on the blog, well so be it.

This is my time to shine. Carpe Diem and all that.

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Dance Show Mecca

In case you haven’t noticed, it is a great time to watch tv shows about all things dance right now.

Of course there is Dancing With The Stars (DWTS).

And Dance Moms.

And now a spin off, Dance Moms, Miami.

Plus, America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) just started this week.

The only one missing is So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), oh, and that one with Laurie Ann Gibson.  Maybe that one is on, but if it is, I’m not watching it.

I could probably write 10,000 words, easy, about all these shows, but for the sake of not making you read for an hour, I’ll focus my commentary.  I think I’ll just mention highlights for all these shows to get caught up (kinda), because if I took the time to write everything I actually have to say, I’d be here until next week, and you probably don’t want to rehash things already transpired.

That being said, here is my disclaimer:  you probably need to have been watching these shows to know what I’m talking about in the rest of this post.  I’m not going to explain everything that has been going on, the backstory, if you will.  Maybe I’m being lazy, but seriously, it would take too long than I’m willing to spend to explain everything!

I wrote about the premiere episode of DWTS and then let life get in the way and haven’t mentioned a word about it since then.  Yes, I’ve been watching, and yes I have thoughts.

Let’s see….First, I’m sad Sherri is gone!  Truth be told, I’d have preferred Roshon to have gotten the boot.  I felt for her so much as she sobbed and I loved how she expressed gratitude for the experience.  I am totally okay with Jack Wagner being kicked off (the dude danced to his own song, yo!) and though I thought Martina was adorable, I’m not surprised she was first to leave.  I’m sorry Melissa got injured, and hope that she has a full and speedy recovery.  And Catherine has been awesome.  She did great in the Latin dances and I thought she might be too soft in them with her ballet background (well, I’m assuming she had ballet – they haven’t disclosed that bit of information).  Maria, I’m on the fence about.  I can’t decide if she is awesome  (well, yes she is awesome) or foolhardy for pushing too hard.  I feel like she pushes, pushes, pushes, makes things work, and maybe, just maybe, her body is giving her a signal.  You know, broken ribs, stress fractures in the feet….it could be a sign to slow down.  I admire her positivity, her commitment, and perserverance.  She’s got character and she’s adorable.  Even her laugh is growing on me.  But I also feel like when a person pushes, and pushes, and pushes, eventually they push against something and it doesn’t work.  At that point it is time to change.  I wonder how long and how hard she has been pushing.  No one can be super-human.  I sincerely hope her injuries heal quickly, and completely, and that she is able to continue on….if that is the safe and sane course of action.  I’m sure they have doctors at the beck and call who can advise her as to the best path.  William is adorable, I hope he continues to grow.  I am a huge fan of Donald Driver at this point.  Only a true man can wear a “granny sweater” and I want to grow up to be Peta.  Jaleel, um, well, I’m lukewarm.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Now for Dance Moms.  What a dysfunctional show!

It is a mixed bag for me.

I can see my old instructor in Ms. Abby Lee, though Glenda was as thin as a rail and Abby is about as fat as I am!  What I mean to say is that I can see the pushing, the cajoling, the pulling from students.  I can see the perfectionism, the demanding of being flawness, the reminding of what it really takes to become a professional.

I can see that on some level, Abby must know what the hell she is doing in terms of technique but that doesn’t excuse her abhorrent behavior.

But, I have to say, as much as a taskmaster as my previous teachers Glenda (and her daughter Trisha) were, I am eternally grateful for her influence in my life.  She, who pushed the most, she who reminded me how far away I was from the ideal, and how unlikely I was to become a professional dancer, she was the one who made me into the best dancer I’ve ever been.

Now everything in this life has prices and benefits.

Would it have been possible for Glenda to mold me and many others into the dancers we became through different methods?  Most likely yes.  Would it be possible for Abby as well?  Of course. I feel for those little girls.  They are in the crossfire of all sorts of emotional bombs between Abby and their mothers and it seems to me like it could be very damaging.  How is this affecting their self-worth?  It’s like an emotional warfare battle zone.  There is so much drama, clearly some of it is scripted, but even so, that has to be very difficult to navigate, especially at such a young age.  And what is this pyramid business?  It is just a tool for control and a reinforcement of comparing oneself to others, rather than tracking one’s individual progress.  It’s a sort of madness.

Some of them are excellent dancers and Nia has really grown throughout the seasons.   I felt good for Chloe getting her moment to shine on the season finale both with winning the top solo routine and getting the Joffrey scholarship.  She is already a little Rockette and I’ve always felt bad for her as it seems she has been playing second fiddle to Maddie.  But poor Maddie blanked out on stage during her solo and caused something I never thought I’d see….Abby Lee Miller crying.  No one celebrated Chloe’s victories because they were all feeling bad about placing 10th in the group number and Maddie running off the stage.  And don’t get me started on how poorly those moms behave.  I was embarrassed for them as one of the instructors from the Joffrey ballet had to exit the class and chide them because of the ruckus they were making.  And that Candy Apple lady – what a piece of work!  I feel like there has to be a better way to produce excellent dancers.  Abby boarders on abusive, I think, and I can’t hardly believe those moms allow such treatment of their daughters.  I have yet to watch the premiere for the Miami spin off but hopefully it isn’t as awful for the kids as the original.

And lastly, ABDC.  I enjoy the dancing but can’t stand the judges, except for Deetrix.  I experience JC as snobby and I can barely understand Lil’ Mama.  I also question their level of dance expertise (except for Deetrix who is a b-boy).  The groups were pretty entertaining but I do think they got the right one in the bottom slot.  Right now I don’t have a favorite group but I really enjoyed the comic performance of Stepboys.  The opening number was fantastic with so much energy with all the dancers from five of the crews that it spilled out of my tv into my living room.  ABDC tends to be a high-energy show and I get more attached to the groups as time goes by.  It will be fun to see what creative and fun things happen as the season continues.

I guess that is it for now.  Happy watching!